Thursday, November 10, 2011

My Obligatory Metatopia Post

So I attended Double Exposure’s Metatopia this past week. It goes without saying that it was an invaluable experience (well now I went and said it but you get my point). The Game Design Festival doesn’t come close to describing it. In fact, I can sum it up with one word: wow. Yep, that’s it. That’s all you get. If you want more, circle the date for next year’s Metatopia on your calendar. You won’t be disappointed.

Every con I attend sheds new light on what has been going on in the gaming scene for years and to some extent it saddens me that I did not plunge into this world sooner. My favorite part of Metatopia was meeting people whose books I can see sitting on the shelf next to me as I write this blog post. I look over and think “Hey! I met that guy or gal”. It’s a unique feeling that is not easy to attain with other hobbies or interests.

I’m generally a quiet person until I get to know people and feel comfortable around them. I don’t like to go in with guns blazing so to speak. I used this first conference to carefully feel my way through the waters of the game design community. I was surprised at how approachable most of the people were and how helpful in general everyone was toward me.

Now I’m going to name drop. Not because these people are buddies of mine but because I actually talked to these people. This list is not composed of just game designers, but instead it has a sampling of everyone I managed to talk to at the con. As you will see there was quite a variety of attendees. These are my general first impressions and will probably change if I’m fortunate enough to meet with some of these amazing people at future cons. Please don’t take offense if you are one the people I list and don’t agree with my impressions or categorization, like I said these are just my general impressions of the people I interacted with. I didn’t go out of my way to meet these people, I just let the current of the con take me where it would. Imagine if I had applied myself! I am unforgivably horrible with remembering names, so please TRY to forgive me if you don’t see yours here. I will catch it next time!

In no particular order:

Jennifer Wong (podcaster, game designer) – As friendly as she is charismatic. A growing force in the podcast community. And a budding game designer, she is full of win.

John Stavropoulos (gamer, community organizer NerdNYC) – This is one person I wish I could have spent more time talking with. His infectious enthusiasm for the gaming culture in the area is apparent from the moment you meet him. I’m hoping I can get him to run me through some Dogs in the Vineyard some day!

Ken Hite (game design icon) – His encyclopedic knowledge of games and systems can be seen from space! What do you say to a man this knowledgeable about a field you hope to break into? Also, I’m afraid I nearly insulted him asking about a game he didn’t seem to care for. I’ll fix that with a beer when next we meet!

John Adamus (Editor, Designer, One-man army)– Enthusiastic best describes John. I have a feeling he will be the unseen hand shaping the careers of many local writers and designers.

Fred Hicks(Designer, Publisher, panelist,) – Purple-haired Lord of Loquaciousness. Frank and pragmatic, he was a whirl wind moving through the convention like he owned the place. And I think if you would have asked most attendees, he did.

Brennan Taylor (Game Designer, Publisher, Panelist) – His laugh. You know the laugh. Loud and infectious. The man has a great sense of humor. I’ve played games with him twice now and it’s always a blast. He was perpetually styling in his Bulldogs flight jacket (I was jealous every time I saw it!)

Rob Donoghue
(Game Designer, Publisher, Comedian) – Genuine, thoughtful and surprisingly hilarious. I will never forget the laughs his role-playing brought to the game I played in with him. I really like the way he seemed to actually listen to what I had to say (which wasn’t much). Great guy. You should say hi to him if you ever see him.

Vinny Salzillo–Ubiquitous. I swear he has cloned himself. HE WAS EVERYWHERE. Thanks for making this con happen.

Joshua A.C. Newman (designer) Inspired and passionate. This guy is driven. He has a unique view on games and is a vibrant member of the game design elite. The community needs a ton of people just like him.

Brenden Conway (Gamer, Panelist) – Friendly. He is a catalyst for fun. He hosted a play test panel I attended and played in two games with me.

Hanna Shaffer (Gamer, future designer) – Great smile. Friendly and inquisitive. Her interest in learning more about the gaming scene is apparent. As a gaming newbie she performed admirably in the game I played alongside her. I know I’ll see her back at future cons!

James “Call me Mendez” Hodes (Gamer, Designer) He can bring the funny. Like Brennan Taylor I’ve gamed with him twice now and he has had me cackling every time. Play a game with him, you’ll see.

Tim Rodriguez (Designer, Gamer, podcaster) A great guy (in fact he’s Mister Fantastic). Played in an entertaining game with him and hung out a few times at the con. Listen to his podcast. Check out his kickstarter project.

Russell Morrisey
(Designer,gamer) Friendly and enthusiastic. I’ve been following Russell’s game design progress with interest. I’m rooting for him.

Darren Watts (Publisher, IPR guy!) Friendly and knowledgeable, this gentleman’s IPR booth is the bane of my wallet!

Dave “the Game” Chalker (Secret Santa) I signed an NDA or I would tell you more about the awesomeness that was the Marvel RPG game run by Dave. He’s a great GM and I hope to be in his future games.

Larry Bogucki (Game Designer) This man is on a mission! Support Warparty or else!

Joseph Bloch (Game Designer) Beneath that perpetual scowl lurks an intense game designer passionate about his game Adventures Dark & Deep!

Jim & Meg (play testers for my game Champions of Midralon) – I never caught your last names, but I would like to thank you again for taking part in my spur of the moment play test. The fact that you were laughing and enjoying yourselves so much gave me hope that I’m on the right track with my game.

See who you missed? Now kick yourself in the ass and make your reservations for next year!

Monday, September 19, 2011

[The Adventures of an RPG Game Design Noob: Part 1] Surprising Progress!

Progress is it's own reward and I'm seeing lots of it with the game I'm designing. I feel good about how it's shaping up and I like the direction I've decided to take it in. I'm still tossing around a few ideas for pacing mechanisms (look at me talking like a game designer!) and what actually constitutes "winning" the game. I mean winning as in how to end the game—not in the Charlie Sheen I AM, THEREFORE I WIN sense.

I guess I can thank my two hour daily commute for helping out with the game. The commute has given me plenty of time to listen to some excellent game design podcasts like: Master Plan, Narrative Control, Jennisodes and the latest one: New Style! I've picked up some valuable information already and sent out a few emails to some of the guests on the shows. I'm hoping they are as friendly and helpful as they sound on the podcast.

I'm surprisingly close to actually having something I can play test. With any luck I can round up some of the usual suspects this weekend and throw the first iteration of the rules set at them and see what survives. I still don't feel comfortable talking about the actual theme of the game yet but I will reveal this small piece of the intro blurb I've written: my game is a game about proud, boastful warriors overcoming mighty challenges and deadly rivalries to earn glory and prestige. It is a game about heroes becoming legends.

I've even started to think about art, layout and editing. I'm hoping to form some kind of collaborative network with some other designers/artists/gamers looking for the same thing. Maybe using some kind of work barter method, we'll see. There you have it, more to come soon!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

It has begun!

After kicking around the idea of creating my own RPG game for a while I finally started putting it together. I've written a short piece of fiction to set the theme of the game and serve as an intro for the book and now I'm hashing out the main rules. I've so many ideas bursting out of my head right now I'm trying to get a handle on them. I woke up this morning and my muse just kicked into overdrive.
I want to ride the streak for as long as I can so I'm trying to keep writing as much as possible, which includes updating this blog! I'm not sure how much I intend to document my process at this point but I know there will be some kind of  progress tracking. I need it for myself more than anything. I know I perform better when I see quantifiable milestones being achieved.
The first hurdle has been cleared, I've started it. Here's hoping I can cross the finish line!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I survived Dexcon 14!!

Working on the blog posts for Dexcon 14! So much to blog about I didn't know where to start, so I've decided to post about each day of the con starting with Thursday (technically not the first day of the con, but the first day we arrived there!)

Stay tuned for more!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Cthulhutech: Smoke and Mirrors

Here's another chapter in our Cthulhutech story! Brought to you by ramen: noodles that fuel creativity.

Cthulhutech: Smoke & Mirrors

"Form up on me. Keep your scanners wide and stay frosty." Lt. Coccio signaled and the other mecha gathered around him, save for Zephyr still in his pod. “Greyhawk, how many rockets do you have?”

“20 sir.”

“I don’t have any left,” Ritz added.

“Alright, let’s ration our rockets.” That didn’t comfort Akita. Fighting the Migou took all of Ritz’s rockets and cost them Zephyr’s mech. What hope did they have now?

"Stand watch. I have a transmission coming in from base." He didn't sound too pleased. After a minute, Zymani heard his voice again.

"Shit! We got incoming. Set up a perimeter. Shit, we don’t have stealth. Everyone who can fly keep watch. You’ll see a friendly ETA 10 minutes." Zymani wondered if it would be a NEG operative that would tell her what the hell was happening and give the next set of orders. She rose with Ritz and Moody into the sky.

Exactly 10 minutes later Zymani got a blip on her scanner for a transport, not a mech. A man in a black suit came out. He looked like he was part of the President of New Earth's government, but Zymani could tell the President wasn't in that transport. A NEG reporter stepped out instead. She quickly surveyed the battlefield in front of them, hurrying her camera crew along.

"Quick Tim, get my mic up. Oh, this is a good shot." She smoothed out her shirt and took a breath. “Another great victory over the Migou by Captain Chip Savage! Led by Captain Savage, NEG forces were able to repel a Migou invasion force heading for Camp Juneau. There must be over 30 mecha here from both Nazzadi loyalists and Migou invaders. Tim! Come get some footage of the debris. This is good." The reporter and her camera crew walked back into the transport followed by the suit.

"Alright, you three can come down." Coccio couldn't see Zymani barring her fangs. If she wasn't fond enough of the NEG newscasts already, this encounter with the Division of Propaganda strengthened her opinion. As she descended, she noticed a faint blip on her AR display. It disappeared the instant it came up.

“Did anyone see that?”

“What is it RoseRage?”

“Wait, I saw it too.” Ritz’s response assured Zymani that she wasn’t completely crazy yet.

“Hm, whatever it was, we shouldn’t stay here long enough to meet it. We’re heading back to Camp Juneau. Moody, stay half a click behind and scan for bugs. If anything comes up on radar, get back here as fast as you can."

“Yes sir." his mech was gone in almost an instant.

"Greyhawk, make some room in your cockpit for Zephyr. I know it'll be cramped, but he needs better shielding than a pod."

"Understood sir." Gir lowered the pod and Nasala made his way from his pod to the opening in the Claymore.

Nasala fist bumped Grayson. "Best friends!" he sat close to Wright to make sure he didn't hit anything that could detonate.

"Let's move out." The squad moved forward, matching speed with the lumbering Claymore. Akita kept watch behind the group. One blip. Three blips. Ten blips. They were swarming up, chasing the small squad. Soon the blips had almost caught up with him. They saw flashes of Dragonfly wings in the distance.

“Sir! There’s a shitload of Locusts coming!"

"Shit. Come up Moody. We need to get to base. Form a perimeter with Greyhawk." Akita moved his mech forward and caught up with the squad. The ghost blips were coming up closer and more frequently now. A large four legged mecha came skittering into view.

“Come in Juneau, we need air support!” The urgency in Coccio’s voice put Zymani on edge. Chatter filled the radio waves between them and the base.

“I gotta save the newbies’ asses again?” Chopper’s familiar gruff voice came over the comm. His mech was a welcome relief as he lead his squadron of mechs into range of the fleeing group.

The Locusts pulled away as Camp Juneau came into sight. The pilots guided their mecha into the maintenance bay and emerged from their mecha as repair crews rushed out to meet them.

"You are all dismissed. I need to find out what's going on from Captain Boomhouser." Lt. Coccio rushed off.

"Ugh, first thing I'm gonna do is get a shower," Wendell brushed the Engel fluid off his mecha suit.

"Where's my mech?!" Sergeant Wynn looked to Nasala. Nasala outranked him, but he still seemed a bit intimidated.

"The bugs tore it. Do you think you could get me something sturdier?"

"...Sure. Twelfth one this month..." Sergeant Wynn grumbled as he went to check for any more missing mechs.

Even though none of the Engel fluid actually touched him, Wendell made sure to scrub every last bit of the goo off his skin. He headed back to his room for a change of clothes. Luckily Chopper wasn't there. He leaned over Chopper's bed and mussed up his sheets for good measure. Wendell liked Akita's idea of going straight to the bar and headed there for some fun.

Zymani let the cool water hit her face and drip off her bobbed scarlet hair. It was refreshing but it wasn't as warm as the fluid in the cockpit of her Engel. Sitting in the Engel was like sitting in the warm Spanish sunshine back at the Barcelona arcology. However comfortable it was, the cockpit wasn’t exactly the safest place to be. You can still feel chill in the summer, thought Zymani.

After she was washed and clothed, Zymani headed down to the rec room. She saw Greyson there with Panic and Lt. Allen. She slowly crept up and grabbed Panic’s shoulders.

“Saved your life!” She giggled as Panic jumped.

“Not funny! D-don’t do that!” Panic scowled at her. “I’m gonna head to the bar. You coming Allen?” Allen shrugged.

“Eh, I’ll just watch over these rookies. What are you guys playing?”

“Just a round of pool or something.” Wright racked up the balls and Zymani grabbed some cues.

“So I heard you guys ran into some trouble.”

“Nothing we couldn’t handle,” Zymani replied absently, focusing on her shot. The two ball sank neatly in the corner pocket.

“I heard there were some news crews too.”

Zymani paused for a moment. “That was definitely an…interesting encounter.” She lined up her next shot.”Five, side pocket.”

“Yeah…?” She stopped again and looked up at Allen, gauging his reaction as much as he was gauging hers. She figured the only way through this conversation would be to finally give an opinion. “…I love how Chip Savage was so kind and convenient to help us win the fight.” She banked the one ball so hard it almost flew off the table and missed the side pocket.

“I know what you mean. You know what? In all my years of service, I have never seen the guy? I wonder if he’s even real. Hell, we’re not even near Juneau.” Wright and Zymani’s heads snapped up.

“…We’re not?” Zymani didn’t care how stupid she sounded. “Did they name it to throw enemies off? Like some sort of misdirection?” But the Migou had still found the base.

“Almost. They named it Juneau because they don’t want the public to know the truth. The Migou invasion has pushed farther inwards than they know. Juneau fell a while ago.”

Zymani’s angry shell shattered. Chip, the news reports, and now Juneau. What did the NEG tell her that wasn’t a lie? And how were they supposed to win a war if the people fighting didn’t know the truth half the time? Her grip on the cue tightened. How was this different from the Migou feeding her people lies and treating them like pawns? No, she would not share the pawn’s fate!

“Barcelona? It’s your turn…” Zymani blinked at Wright who looked at her as if she had bug wings. She looked down at her knuckles, almost white with rage around the cue. She shook the thoughts out of her head. She was an Engel pilot, not some Migou slave.

“Sorry guys. Here, Allen, you can finish the game.” She handed the cue to Allen and brushed her bangs away from her face. “I’m kinda tired. I’m going to go to my room. Buenas noches.”


Wendell walked into the bar. He spied Akita trying to chat up Honey. The old Ritz charm would probably work better.

" come here often?" Honey looked at Akita. That was seriously the best he could muster.

"...Yeah. We're stationed here."

Wendell interrupted their conversation with a slap on Akita’s back. "Hello there sweet Honey." He gave her the famous Haversham eyebrow wiggle. "Can I get you a drink?"

"I'll always have a drink with a comrade." She didn't seem too fazed by the Haversham eyebrows.

"Can I get you two drinks?" Akita piped in. Honey smirked at him.

"Sure. Oh hey Panic!" Honey motioned to Panic as he entered the bar. Bensen sighed as he walked over to join them.

"Hey Honey," he sat down at the bar and ordered a beer.

"Well I gotta go catch up with someone. You'll remember me later." Wendell gave Honey the Haversham brows again before leaving.


"What do you need?" Cookie leaned back in his chair and put his feet up on his desk.

"Well Officer-"

"Please, call me Cookie."


"Everyone does."

"Okay, Cookie..." Why was he doing this again? Right, cause he might as well have some fun and make some low friends in high places while he was here. "Is there a corner of the office that we could talk in with nobody hearing?"

"This is my office. No one can hear us."

"Alright then...Have you heard of the Havershams or Ryan Orwell?" He gave Cookie a small wink.

"I may have. Why?"

"They might have some profitable business offers for you in the future."

"I see. And what would they want in return?"

"Some kickbacks, mostly in the form of goods."

"Of course. Anything else?"

"One more thing. Roses and chocolates delivered to this room." Cookie raised a brow.

"I see. Well, thank you for your business."

"And you for yours." Wendell closed the door behind him.


The bar got louder and friendlier as the night went on. Panic leaned closer to Akita, the alcohol heavy on his breath.

"Y'know,'re a pretty good guy Akita. I didn't think I'd find anyone here that saw things like I do. I-I mean it's not great here, but it's better than the other option."

"I know what you mean." Akita gave him a light pat on the shoulder.

"Hey Akita, can I talk to you for a sec?" He perked up as Honey called him over.

"What do you need?"

"Nothing, it just looked like you needed rescuing," she gave him a warm smile.

Wendell walked back into the bar, wondering what else he could accomplish on this oh so productive day. He saw Akita talking with Honey again. Wendell hung back this time, looking cool and unconcerned. He saw out of the corner of his eye a woman fluttering her eyelashes at him. His chances with her were better but ugh, Nazzadi. Oh well. He walked over to the bar and ordered her a drink. She giggled as she took the glass.

“My name’s Kitia.” She leaned in close, looking up at him with big red eyes.

“…I’ll call you Kitty.” She giggled again, not taking those damned red eyes off him. “So, your place?”

“Um, I dunno about that. My roommate might not like me bringing back a guy again. But I do know one place…” She pulled him by the shirt and led him out of the bar.

Honey stretched and looked at her PCPU on her wrist.

“Oh, it’s getting kinda late. I should get back to my room.” She started to get up, but Akita was already helping her with her chair.

“Do you want me to walk you to your room?”

“Akita,” she put a hand on his shoulder, “You’re sweet, but you’re not my type. Thanks anyways.”

“Oh, alright…” Akita watched her walk out, then sat in her stool and ordered another drink.

Zymani knocked loudly on her door, in case her roommate had any male company.

“Gregs? It’s Barcelona.”

“Come in.” She found Lt. Gregs alone, changing into pajamas. “And you don’t have to worry about knocking, but I expect the same of you.”

“Understood,” Zymani gave her a quick nod.

“Don’t have to be so formal either…” Honey crawled into the bed and pulled the sheets over herself. “Goodnight Barcelona.”

“…Night Gregs.” Zymani changed into her pajamas and slipped under her covers.

Kitia leaned against the door, panting.

“That was-“ Wendell hit her head against the wall and she slumped, unconscious. He buckled his belt and put his shirt back on. He waited and her eyes flickered back open. “Wha…?”

“That just happened.” He tried not to look smug.

“Woah…but why does my head hurt?”

“Oh, um, blood pressure, heart rate…that stuff.” He slipped away before he had to answer any more questions.

Wendell was surprised not to find Chopper in their room yet. The sheets were still mussed. He shrugged and went to sleep.

It seemed like he had just fallen asleep when an intense pain rocked him out of his sleep. Then realization hit him.

“I owed you that one,” Chopper slurred.

Wendell pulled the sheets over his face and turned away from Chopper.

“If you’re gonna kiss me, cuddle first.”

“Get up you sonnofa bitch!” Wendell tiredly rose from the bed. Chopper was swaying in the middle of the room, whiskey bottle in hand.

“Hey, before this goes any farther…” He paused, and then punched Chopper in the face.

“You bastard!” Chopper swung, but he stumbled and missed. Wendell jumped behind him and held his arms.

“Cool it McBane!” Chopper started shaking as Wendell realized that he was sobbing and let go.

“My…he was my best friend…” Wendell locked the door, sat next to Chopper, and patted him on the back. McBane tilted the bottle to him and Wendell took a sip. “You…you smell like Nazzadi…” Wendell was not amused, but Chopper seemed to ignore it and took a swig of the whiskey. “I wasn’t crying…” Chopper wiped his nose on his arm. Wendell took the bottle back and finished it off.

“No, you weren’t.”

The sun was excruciatingly bright for Akita. He had just woken up and it was already a terrible day. He was gonna be late if he didn’t get to the Captain faster, but everything wouldn’t stop moving. Captain Boomhouser glared at him as he stumbled into line.

“Those Locusts from yesterday are pressing our borders. Lt. Wright, you’re going to head a scouting mission covering six waypoints. The route will be loaded into your HUD. Do not stray too far from the route and do not pursue the enemy. We c an’t afford to lose any more mecha. Good luck, soldiers. Dismissed.”

Greyhawk grabbed a bagel before climbing into his mech. Moody couldn’t keep his breakfast down. He decided to just go with coffee. Ritz found a surprise in his mech: flowers and chocolates.

“No! This isn’t where they’re supposed to be!” Ritz sighed with exasperation. “Guess I’ll just deliver it myself.”

The mecha moved through the forest in a pack. Moody scouted up ahead with Zymani between him and the group. They made it to the first waypoint without a problem. Then a ghost blip popped up on Moody’s scanner, out of the way of the route.

“Greyhawk, we’ve got a ghost.”

“Alright. Moody, investigate the last location of the ghost. RoseRage, stay between us.” This time the ghost popped up between Zymani and the main group.

“I saw it, transmitting coordinates.” Gir tensed up around her. She didn’t like this.

“Everyone, form up at the last known location of the ghost.” The hair on the back of Akita’s neck rose. Something gave him a feeling that he was being watched.

“I think I see a shimmer.” He switched to thermal and then x ray scanners. Two Dragonflies stood cloaked in front of a tree, two more were in the air. “There’s two pairs of cloaked Dragonflies.”

“Moody, relay the coordinates and come back to us. Don’t let them know you saw them.”

“Permission to drop a grav bomb, sir?”

“…Permission granted.” Zymani held her breath. Two Dragonflies popped up in front of her where she guessed the bomb landed. She fired her plasma cannon at them, but somehow they still managed to dodge. Zephyr turned and let his shiny new Blizzard’s rockets loose. A Dragonfly appeared with a chunk missing from its left side. Shrapnel shimmered over the other Dragonfly. Greyhawk’s rockets turned it into shimmering confetti. Ritz shot a laser and cut its friend in half.

Moody’s laser missed the Dragonflies near the trees. They fired back him, but he stumbled and moved out of the way of one blast. The other glanced off his armor. Zephyr’s mech held out its palm and an arc of lightning jumped back and forth between the two Dragonflies. Smoke rose from their shells as their circuits fried. Greyhawk shot a laser at one, shaving off its armor before it exploded. Before Zymani realized what she was doing, her Engel crouched and then lept at the last Dragonfly.

Its wings buzzed as it struggled in Gir’s claws. She wanted to kill it quickly, just as the Migou would if they caught her. Then she heard another voice. Yes, it would be fun to see now a Dragonfly fluttered with its wings pulled off one by one. Ritz’s Cherub landed nearby. Its tail whipped around, twirled, and bashed the Dragonfly in half. Gir’s head snapped to look at Ritz. Zymani’s cockpit rumbled as Gir let out a low, ominous growl.

Something else grabbed their attention. A Migou fluttered up from the wreckage in Gir’s claws.

“Oh god, what the f-“ Moody’s comm was cut off. Zymani stared at it with morbid fascination. Maybe now she could pick it apart and play with it, find what made these flies such a difficult foe. Before she could reach out to touch it, the Migou started to melt and imploded. Damnit.

“Moody? Moody you there?” Ritz’s Cherub moved towards Moody. His mech was slowly drifting towards the ground.

“W-what? What happened? Why is there puke in my helmet?” Moody’s mech righted itself.

“Moody, do you see anything else on the scanners?” Greyhawk hadn’t been close enough to see the Migou like Zymani did.

“Negative, I don’t see anything else.”

“Alright, let’s continue on.”

This was only the second waypoint, Zymani thought.


"I love Kirby!" "That's lame, all you do is spam rock attack." "But you just got rocked."

Sunday, May 1, 2011

CthulhuTech: First Contact

Here's some fiction based on our group's first true session for CthulhuTech. It's lengthy (about 4 hours we played?), but I hope you all enjoy it!

Cthulhutech: First Contact
The young mecha pilots saluted their old drill sergeant one more time before they loaded their bags onto the waiting transport. Sergeant Tockett , that lovable asshole, saluted them back and said “you finally got your bananas, don’t let me see you apes cry now.” He had busted their asses for several grueling weeks, but they were better officers for it. He made them earn their “butter bars”, the derisive nickname for the thin golden second lieutenant insignias they now wore on their uniform collars.
“Where do you think we’re going?” Wendell picked up his bags and started for the shuttle.
“I don’t know. I’ll-ask-ya,” Zymani replied with a sly grin, her fangs stark white against her black skin. Akita, walking ahead of her, stiffened. Alaska was the main North American front against the Migou. She remembered Officer Flemming’s parting advice just after he had cleaned them out with a game of dice during their trip to basic training: It’s a real shit hole fellas, pray you don’t pull duty here.
“Ugh, this flight is gonna take forever,” grumbled Nasala. The surly Nazzadi stowed his gear under the seat in front of him and next to Naransa’s neatly arranged gear. Soon everyone was loaded onto the shuttle. The craft trembled slightly as its A-pods lifted it into the air, and it was off to Camp Juneau.
“Hey, is something wrong?” Zymani leaned toward Akita. He had barely said a word all morning. Lieutenant Akita “Moody” Nazza-Dhuni looked at her with dull red eyes.
“...It’s just one of those days.” Akita shifted closer to the window and stared off into the distance. Zymani looked over at Greyson who just shrugged and reclined in his seat. Zymani gave a small sigh and did the same. An AR video console projected down from the ceiling and played a feed from the New Earth News Network.
…And on the North American front a Migou incursion into the Anchorage Alaska arcology has met with stiff resistance from NES Armed Forces led by the battlecruiser NES Victory and her daring mecha pilots! Captain Chip Savage is credited with destroying five Migou Mecha and will be receiving a citation for bravery from the President of the United Earth; this will be Captain Savage’s fifth citation for bravery! The Ministry of Information has scheduled a parade in front of the New Earth Government’s capital of Chicago to honor this brave hero of the New Earth Armed Forces.
Chip Savage. A real New Earth hero. Zymani wondered if a Nazzadi could ever be a poster child for the war effort with their onyx skin, red eyes, tribal tattoos and sharp fangs. Captain Zymani “RoseRage” Barcelona. It had a nice ring to it. But she was fine with second lieutenant for now. She’d see action and get a shot at those dammed Migou soon enough. But she was getting tired of hearing the same propaganda. She picked a song on her PCPU and let the thumping bass lull her to a comfortable sleep.
“Time to get off!”
The air was chilly as Zymani opened her eyes. Sergeant “Bam-Bam” Wynn was waving everyone to unload their bags and line up in front of the shuttle.
“Finally!”barked Lieutenant Nasala his impatience obvious to all. Nasala “Zephyr” Nazza-Dhuni was always the first one reporting for duty. Behind him came the ever prompt Lt. Naransa “FlashBang” Nazza-Dhuni and Lt. Wendell “Ritz” Haversham. Zymani stepped off the shuttle ramp behind Lt. Greyson “Greyhawk” Wright. Akita was the last to drag his bags out.
Sergeant Wynn directed their attention to a small man, trembling in the chilly Alaskan air. The man carried himself with a mousy demeanor. “Welcome to Camp Juneau,” he said. “I’m Lieutenant Bensen.”
“Alright, um, if you…guys…” Bensen looked at Zymani, unsure of how to address her in a mostly male group, “Follow me, I’ll uh, show you to your rooms.” They picked up their bags as he led them into the base.
They followed him into the barracks and he stopped before a door with two AR plaques showing “2nd. Lt. Gregs. The other plaque was empty.
“Lt. Barcelona, this is your room, you’ll be bunking with Shannon “Honey” Gregs. You can set your stuff up in there.” Honey gave her a polite wave and helped bring the bags into the room.
Lt. Bensen led them to another door.
“Lt. Nazza-Dhuni?” Bensen looked at the three Nazzadi males standing in front of him. “Um, you all related?”
Zymani gave a small huff of exasperation. He obviously didn’t know anything about their culture if he didn’t realize Nazzadi take their surnames from their home arcology. She was the only one not from Nazza-Dhuni.
“Kidding…” mumbled Bensen. “Um, Lt. Akita Nazza-Dhuni? Yeah, you’ll be here with Lt. Coccio. He’s probably down at the rec room right now, but you can put your stuff in there.”
He led the remaining group down the hall and opened the door to another room. “And here…oh, these were supposed to be moved. Sorry, I’ll have someone get these out.” The room was empty save for the bags of two other soldiers. “This room was…um…recently vacated…”
Everyone understood what those bags represented. The grim reality of war on the frontlines. “Lt. Nasala Nazza-Dhuni and Lt. Wright, you’ll be rooming together.”
“Best friends!” Nasala eagerly carried his bags in, unfazed by the bags left in the room. Greyson stepped in behind him wondering if this would go good or terribly, terribly bad. Bensen moved onto the next room with Wendell and stopped in front of a closed door.
“And you’ll be rooming with…well, I apologize in advance.” He gave a meek knock on the door. “Chopper…it’s your new roommate”
“I don’t want a new fucking roommate!”
Zymani could hear the shout from down the hall. Bensen’s hand shook as he knocked again. The door opened. “I said I don’t want a f-“
“Too goddamn bad!” Wendell’s fist made full contact with Chopper’s face. A few drops of blood hit the wall. Zymani and the others rushed out into the hallway.
“Sonnofa bitch!” Chopper swung at Wendell, but not with the same force. Wendell just laughed.
Bensen nearly shit his pants as he stood up straight.
“Commander on deck!” Everyone stood at attention except for Wendell and Chopper, still grabbing each other’s shirts.
A grizzled captain that looked like the absolute last guy you wanted to fuck with entered the barracks room. He looked like he ate the soldiers in action movies for breakfast and spit them out for lunch. Buzz-cut, square-jaw, rough looking and scarred, the whole deal. Zymani could see why Bensen nearly shit his pants. Wendell finally let go of Chopper and stood at attention.
“I am Captain Bart Boomhouser and I want to know what the fuck is going on in my barracks!”
“Just reviewing combat, sir!” Wendell let go of Chopper and stood at attention.
“Well review your combat training with the Migou. There are enough of them to fight without fighting amongst ourselves too. New recruits, follow me. Lt. McBane, get yourself cleaned up.”
Lt. Mcbane shot Wendell a glare as they left the room.
“Don’t touch my shit!” Wendell called after him. He joined near the back of the Captain’s group. Bensen caught up with him.
“Hey, sorry about that… he’s never been a pleasant one, but his friend and roommate just died the other day…”
An elbow met Wendell’s side.
“Ow, what was that for?” Wendell turned to Nasala.
“You’re such a prick!”
“How was I supposed to know his friend died?”
Captain Boomhouser led the pilots to the rec room. There were two men leaning over a pool table. The taller one with black hair gave them a silent, polite nod and went back to his shot. The smaller one with glasses waved excitedly.
“You guys made it!”
“I’ll leave you in the hands of Warrant Officer Flemming and Lt. Coccio. I trust there won’t be any more fights?”
Wendell looked around innocently.
“…yes sir,” squeaked Lt. Bensen.
Captain Boomhouser left the rec room.
“There goes the Reaper, biggest, baddest son-of-a-bitch this side of Neptune.” The Logistics Officer eyed the group standing before him, noting Wendell’s split lip.
“Ah, I see you met Chopper. Eh, I don’t care what happened he’s always been an asshole. Wanna play a game of pool after Coccio and I finish up?”
“Hey, you’re the guy who conned us on our ride to basic training!” Nasala did not look amused.
“I didn’t con you. I’m just a lucky guy with good dice.” Flemming gave them a small wink. “If you guys wanna try me again, or if you need anything, just ask for Cookie. I’ll try to get it for ya.”
The door burst open as a sergeant walked into the room. The named tag on his chest read “Gore”.
“I’m sergeant Bill Gore and I am your duty sergeant. New recruits are gonna get their first taste of duty tomorrow. Recon. Your mechs should arrive tonight. Be ready at 0500.” He departed as abruptly as he had arrived. The recruits looked at each other and got settled in.
The pilots were up, ready, and in position by 0500 sharp. Zymani recognized everyone from yesterday aside from 3 pilots introduced to her as Lt. Simon “Cutter” Vaillancourt, Lt. Allan and Lt. Shana “Splat” Nazza-Dhnui. Captain Boomhouser and Sergeant Gore were there to give squad assignments.
“First squad, Lt. McBane, you’ll be taking Lt. Bensen, Lt. Gregs and Lt. Allen. Second squad, Lt. Vaillancourt, you’ll take Lt. Wright, Zephyr and Splat. Lt. Coccio, you’re heading third squad with Lt. Barcelona, Lt. Haversham, and Moody. First squad will do deep recon. Second and third, you’re investigating a nearby settlement. Dismissed.”
Zymani walked over to her Engel. A 30-foot tall man-made organic hybrid of machine and…something else. No one liked to talk about what that else might be. She had her Auphin she named Gir. A Reconnaissance Engel. Those who saw it liked to call it the Hound. She could see that, with its werewolf hunch, hanging arms ending in claw-like fingers, and legs that resembled the hind legs of a dog. The only thing that threw her off was its head. It was streamlined like a dog’s head, but to her it looked more like an ant’s head with its two mandibles protruding in front. At 28 feet tall, it was a damn big dog.
Zymani slid into the control capsule. She felt the warm fluid press against her suit as it filled the cockpit. Displays flickered on the front of her helmet. The Engel Synthesis Interface allowed her to see everything her Engel saw. She moved her head back and forth to get used to the sensors again. Gir started moving his head in time with hers. They were almost one now.
“Starting to regret that whole ESI thing,” Wendell sounded uneasy.
“Don’t worry Ritz, Cherubs don’t have tentacles. I think it’s rather comfy in these engels.” Zymani wiggled a bit to demonstrate her point and was surprised when Gir moved too.
Cutter’s voice sounded loud over her intercom “Enough chatter ladies. Let’s kick some tires and light some fires!” His mech ran ahead of the group.
“Tires? But…A-pods…I don’t even,” mumbled Nasala .
RoseRage chuckled while Gir turned its head to stare down at him; she knew it unnerved him the way the Engel looked at him with its eyeless head.
Nasala quickly piloted his mech away, not waiting for the Engel to creep him out any more than it already did.
Zymani saw nothing but debris outside the high metallic walls of Camp Juneau. It was strange how there were no signs of life aside from the few plant still clinging to existence in this harsh climate . There weren’t even bugs, unless you counted the insect-like remains of the torn Migou mecha lying on the ground. There were even NEG mecha with odd-looking paintjobs. They must have belonged to Blanks. Migou liked to brainwash humans and turn them into permanent mind-slaves; no one had found a way to reverse the process yet. Blanks. Just the thought of having that done to her made Zymani shudder. She knew she would not be that lucky, the Migou despised the Nazzadi for turning on their former masters; they completely destroyed any Nazzadi they captured.
“Zephyr, keep an eye out for blips,” ordered Lt. Coccio.
Nasala’s Eclipse moved ahead at incredible speed. The sleek Nazzadi mech was tiny compared to the other mecha but could probably outrun a bullet.
“Moody, you go on watch too.”
Akita’s Hurricane was the other small Nazzadi mech. It was almost as fast and had more of a pyramid shaped head than the Eclipse class of Nazzadi mecha.
“I’ve got movement,” radioed Zephyr. Zimani cringed as she heard a long wail from Zephyr’s audio system.
”Switching to thermal scan. There’s someone in the middle of the wreckage sir. It scans as a human, sounds female. Permission to approach sir?”
“Go head.”
Zymani watched Nasala’s mech disappear as its stealth systems activated. Gir raised its head as if it were sniffing the air. The walls of her cockpit tensed and trembled as it growled.
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this too,” Zymani grumbled.
Zephyr edged closer toward the target. His video feed showed her a naked woman chained to a post in the center of the courtyard. The woman was screaming hysterically and didn’t seem to notice the shimmering outline of the stealthed mech in front of her.
“It’s a trap!” screamed Moody.
As soon as the words left his mouth, Zymani saw a purple winged mech uncloak behind Zephyr.
“The masters are coming!” The woman’s wails turned to maniacal laughter.
More blips popped up on Zymani’s HUD; her IFF system identified three more Dragonflies moving out of the village. Past the village, three Migou Locusts scuttled toward their patrol. The Migou mecha each had four insect-like legs with a long neck and long deadly looking pincers.
“Where’s a can of bug spray when you need it?” Zephyr fired his lightning gun, but the Dragonfly swiftly dodged the shot.
Zymani started to fly over to him, but something was pulling her Engel back down to the ground. The Dragonflies and the Locusts were out of range. Why did she feel so heavy?
“Sorry guys…” Moody’s apologetic voice echoed across the comm.
The nervous pilot had mistakenly fired his weapon system and a grav bomb had backfired on the entire squad. One of the Dragonflies turned its attention to Zymani and scratched Gir’s plating with a laser. Greyhawk‘s large Claymore responded with a blast from its lasers, punching a small hole through the Dragonfly’s armor. Somehow it stayed hovering in the air.
The Flies shot back at him, but his Claymore was a heavy support mech and shrugged off the effects of their weaker weapons. Ritz’s Cherub tried pulling away from the ground as it launched rockets at the small swarm. The Dragonflies circled around as they dodged each missile.
Zymani felt the antigrav field lift from her Engel as she sped toward the Dragonflies. She fired her plasma cannon, but her Migou adversary dodged again.
Ritz changed direction and fired another barrage at a Locust. The Dragonflies returned fire at the pair of mecha. Gir’s armor soaked the blast again while Ritz moved out of the way. Another Dragonfly hit Moody’s small mech, still trapped by the effects of his grav bomb. The last fly aimed a blast at Greyhawk. It somehow managed to miss the largest mech on the field. The Migou didn’t live long to regret the decision as Greyhawk’s laser seared it in half.
The Locusts concentrated their fire on Zymani’s squad. She managed to dodge the barrage, but Moody and Game-Over each took a hit. Zymani turned her attention back to the Dragonflies as Gir leapt at one midair. She managed to catch one and sunk her acid-filled mandibles into the small mech. She tossed her head back as Gir ripped the fly in half. She felt a deep satisfaction in tearing her former tyrants into pieces. The remaining pieces were crushed in Gir’s claws as it turned and shot another Dragonfly. The Migou mech crashed to the ground, smoke trailing behind the smoldering metal. One of the two remaining Dragonflies tried to escape.
“I’ve got this one!” Zephyr’s mech grabbed it by a leg and punched it. He swung again, but missed. Zymani and Moody set after the Locusts. A blast from the Locust hit Moody, nearly disabling his mech. Another mandibled mech tried to take a bite out of Zymani. She tried biting back, but only got air. Greyhawk fired at the Locust but they were almost as fast as Dragonflies and scurried out of the way. Ritz took aim and managed to hit one as it scurried back into position. A laser blast hit the other one as Moody returned to the fight. The Locust tried to snap at Zymani again, but Greyhawk stopped it with another blast of his laser.
“Take this you bug-faced freak.” Ritz fired his rocket pods at the Locust in front of him. “I hate you. Die.” As if on cue, the Migou shook and crashed to the ground. Ritz laughed at his impeccable timing.
Zephyr finished off the last Dragonfly with a punch and flew over to the Locusts. The Locust dodged away from Zephyr’s fist and into Ritz’s rocket. Zymani leapt back and fired her plasma cannon at the Locust, but it crawled out of the way. There was a flash to Zymani’s left as both Greyhawk and Moody hit a Locust with their lasers. Then she heard the sickening crunch of metal. She looked back at the Locust in front of her with Zephyr’s mech caught between its pincers. His emergency pod ejected itself from the mech before in the two smoking halves hit the ground. She stepped between the pod and the Locust and tried to fire at the Migou, but her cannon malfunctioned and the blast hit her instead. Luckily, Gir’s armor soaked the impact. Ritz seemed to have the same luck when his gun backfired.
Even without Zephyr, the Locusts were sorely outnumbered and started skittering back. Gir leapt and managed to tackle one to the ground. The other one didn’t get far as Moody’s laser sent it stumbling. Gir rolled off the remaining Locust before Greyhawk blasted it into pieces. Gir climbed back to his feet as Zymani scanned for Zephyr’s pod. Once she spotted it, Gir ran over and picked it up in one claw.
“Don’t worry Zephyr, I’ve got you.”
“Thanks Rose. Maybe next time I should get a sturdier mech, huh?”
“Let’s focus on getting you back to base first.”
“Well be quick about it.”
Zymani smirked and headed toward the rest of the group.
“What do we do with the crazy broad sir?” Ritz’s barbed tail pointed back at the woman laughing and screaming.
“I say we fry her.”
“No Zephyr. We leave her. Let’s get back to base.”
The mechs turned back to Camp Juneau. Zymani could still feel the adrenaline coursing through her body after the battle with the Migou. The crunch between Gir’s mandibles was so satisfying, but as she looked down at Zephyr’s pod she remembered how easily they caught and crushed Zephyr’s mech. This was called the Aeon War for a reason. This didn’t even count as a battle in a war that wasn’t ending anytime soon. But as long as she was Nazzadi, Zymani would tear apart each bug she came across and make the Migou pay.
"If that movie was as good as its soundtrack, it would've blown everyone's mind."